COSTA RICA. I experienced the beauty of Costa Rica for the first time this past summer, when I studied abroad at the University of Costa Rica, which was a part of the Study Abroad Program at my home University, North Carolina State University. Living with a host family in the Sabanilla district in the Montes de Oca province, about five minutes away by car or bus from San José, proved to be a great starting point for adventure trips.
Because Costa Rica is full of beautiful scenery, it is definitely a place where you would want to spend time outdoors. I myself had never thought about going whitewater rafting, zip-lining, hiking and rappelling down a 180-foot wall. But Costa Rica made it happen.
From San José, and elsewhere in the country, there are plenty of adventure tours available. In fact, my study abroad program included a one-day trip to Fossil Land, a theme park offering numerous activities. In my case, the tour scheduled by my study abroad program included zip-lining, hiking and rappelling. However, anyone can make a reservation for the theme park via the website. One canopy ride, for example, is currently priced at 14,140 Costa Rican colones, equivalent to about 28 USD. Note that minimum group size is eight people. You can add on rappel for 13,550 Costa Rican colones, or about 26 USD. You can view the full list of tours here (scroll down to download the prices as a PDF document).
Our tour started with a group icebreaker, where each person had to introduce him or herself and then do something that the rest of the group had to imitate. Afterwards, we began the hike to get to the place for zip-lining.
Initially, it was scary because of how high I was, but the view was just wonderful: I was able to see from the mountains to the city. Having hiked to the top, we zip-lined four times on different levels in order to get us back to where we started. But before we did the last two zip-lines, we rappelled down a 180-foot wall.
Rappelling was new to me. I had heard of it before but never thought it would be something I would actually do. Each person has a partner that they rappel down the wall with. At the outset, it was a little difficult, but the guides are really helpful in making you feel comfortable and giving you good directions on what to do in order to be successful! Once I got the hang of it, it became easier and easier.
On another free weekend, I asked my host mother about suggestions on things to do and she recommended whitewater rafting, so I booked the Pacuare River 1 Day Expedition offered by Exploradores Outdoors, an operator that offers other trips, too. The cost was $99 and included a big breakfast, lunch, transportation to and from the area, and the cost of the equipment. In total, we spent about five hours in the river, enjoying the water and the views. The guides were friendly and funny.
It was not recommended to bring cameras for whitewater rafting, for obvious reasons. But the company actually has photographers that are dispersed throughout the trip to take photos of your experience. All of these photos of your particular raft and your rafting adventure are put on a CD, which you can purchase for $20.
Halfway through the rafting, we stopped to have lunch on the bank, I tasted the sweetest pineapple and watermelon I’ve ever tasted in my life. The Costa Ricans have a phrase used as a greeting, a farewell, and a way of saying how things are going. In my opinion, it is like saying “all is well”, “take care” or “this is a good life”. Eating the pineapple. I felt it: Pura Vida!